This article originally appeared in UTSA Today.
FEBRUARY 16, 2022 — This spring, The University of Texas at San Antonio welcomes esteemed scholar Rhonda BeLue as a Lutcher Brown Endowed Distinguished Professor in the Department of Public Health.
BeLue was hired under the 2020 Connected Program of the university’s Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative. Part of the Clustered and Connected Program (CCP), the 2020 Connected Program was specifically designed to attract and recruit scholars that will advance the institution’s national role as an advocate for equity and inclusion.
In her new role at UTSA, BeLue will serve as the nexus for leading public health and biomedical innovators to provide real world instruction, thoughtful leadership and expertise to solve problems in health equity and inclusion.
In addition to her faculty position, she serves as the first associate dean for community engagement and partnerships in the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy (HCaP).
“My research has evolved over the course of my career to be very practice-based,” she said. “I aim to work with healthcare and community-based organizations to develop policy practice and interventions and to improve the lives of citizens, and make sure to involve citizens and get the voice of the community into the research.”
BeLue was recruited to UTSA from Saint Louis University, where she served as chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy. In 2020, she was tapped by the City of Saint Louis to lead its Department of Health advisory board. Prior to that, she served on the faculty of Pennsylvania State University.
She has over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts, book chapters and other scholarly writings. As with many public health scholars, BeLue’s research has also shifted to include the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, she was awarded $800,000 from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to work with community-based organizations to provide COVID-19 vaccine education and improve vaccine updates among underserved communities who suffered disproportionately from poor COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.
Now that she is in San Antonio, she is looking forward to working with the local health department and helping them achieve their goals to become an inclusive and equitable organization.
BeLue also has an eye on student success and ensuring the students of HCaP have a solid foundation to become productive members of their community.
“I am eager to develop partnerships that benefit community members, organizations, and students who are trying to enter the workforce,” she said. “We want to make sure that there’s a good value proposition for what we do for all stakeholders.”
The College for Health, Community and Policy was established in 2020 and BeLue has high hopes for its future. Not only does she want to strengthen community partnerships and develop students who can improve the well-being of San Antonio, she is also mindful of the pandemic and the immediate needs of our citizens.
“As a society, we’re in a bit of a period of high trauma, and we need to be acutely aware that there’s some building and some rebuilding,” BeLue said. “We need to do things that are sustainable, and that make the community more robust and bring in resources. I look forward to working with UTSA students in the classroom and on research and community engagement projects.”
BeLue earned a Ph.D. in health policy analysis and management and a master’s degree in statistics with a minor in epidemiology from Cornell University. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
“Dr. BeLue’s knowledge and experiences make her well-positioned to serve as our inaugural Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Partnerships,” said Lynne Cossman, dean of the college. “She will play a key role in connecting students and faculty to the community through teaching, research and service. Dr. BeLue’s extensive background in community engaged public health—from local to global—combined with her work in health care administration are bringing to HCaP some much needed skills and expertise.”
The Lutcher Brown Endowed Distinguished Professorship No. 1 is one of three distinguished professorships established in 2021 with funds from the Lutcher Brown Endowment for Academic Excellence.
UTSA’s 83 endowed chairs, professorships and faculty fellowships recognize the scholarship and research of the institution’s highest achieving faculty scholars. Endowed faculty members use the funding they receive from these appointments to support their existing and new scholarly activities as well as student academic success.
UTSA’s College for Health, Community and Policy is dedicated to developing solutions to affect change for complex social issues to improve the well-being of communities and the world. The college is comprised of eight academic departments and one program—criminology and criminal justice, demography, nutrition and dietetics, kinesiology, psychology, public administration, public health, social work and sociology—as well as the Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research, the Policy Studies Center, the Institute for Health Disparities Research, and the Center for Community Based and Applied Health Research. HCaP includes more than 175 faculty and more than 6,800 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees.